This short book, taken from Chapter Six, Book III of Calvin’s Institutes, was instrumental in the Dutch Reformation, so much so that it was the first portion of Calvin’s massive Institutes to be published separately and has stayed in print ever since. It’s singular focus is the proper understanding and pursuit of godliness or as Calvin puts it, “the harmony between God’s righteousness and our obedience.”
Chapter One lays the foundation that for the true child of God, Christ is Savior and Lord. Children of God are called to be Holy as He is Holy and Holiness means full obedience to Christ. Self-autonomous rule is laid at the feet of He who bought us with His blood.
Chapter Two fleshes out what that obedience looks like – Self Denial. Self denial for the glory of the Lord. Self denial for the sake of other believers. Self denial for the good of all, friend and foe.
Chapter Three describes the means of this self-denial: cross bearing. This chapter was the most powerful in my opinion. Calvin explains like only he can the wonder of God’s sovereignty and goodness in our suffering. As modern Americans we have such a poor theology of suffering and this chapter was a helpful reminder that the call to follow Christ is the call to suffer.
Chapter Four follows the natural progression and exhorts the believer to fix his hopes on the next world. There is no crown without a cross and no earthly crown can be underestimated in light of the glory to come.
Calvin concludes in Chapter Five by instructing us how to rightly make use of the present life. This brings balance to the previous chapter by reminding us of how earthly blessing are to point us to the heavenly Blessor and how every sphere of life is to be one of sacred worship.
I will be returning often to this short book for Gospel perspective.
“Holiness is not a merit by which we can attain communion with God, but a gift of Christ, which enables us to cling to him, and to follow him.”
“The apostle explains the reason, that it was necessary for him to ‘learn obedience by the things which he suffered.’ Why then should we free ourselves from that condition to which Christ, our Chief, had to submit, especially since his submission was on our behalf, to give us an example of patience?”